Abstract and Introduction
During the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, farmworkers in the United States are considered essential personnel and continue in-person work. We conducted prospective surveillance for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and antibody prevalence among farmworkers in Salinas Valley, California, during June 15–November 30, 2020. We observed 22.1% (1,514/6,864) positivity for SARS-CoV-2 infection among farmworkers compared with 17.2% (1,255/7,305) among other adults from the same communities (risk ratio 1.29, 95% CI 1.20–1.37). In a nested study enrolling 1,115 farmworkers, prevalence of current infection was 27.7% among farmworkers reporting ≥1 COVID-19 symptom and 7.2% among farmworkers without symptoms (adjusted odds ratio 4.16, 95% CI 2.85–6.06). Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies increased from 10.5% (95% CI 6.0%–18.4%) during July 16–August 31 to 21.2% (95% CI 16.6%–27.4%) during November 1–30. High SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence among farmworkers underscores the need for vaccination and other preventive interventions.
In response to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the United States and other countries have implemented broad interventions to mitigate community transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Workers in food supply and other industries deemed essential to continuity of public health and safety have continued in-person work. COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported among various essential workforce groups, including employees in food processing facilities,[3,4] but studies prospectively assessing risk for infection among essential workers involved in food production are lacking.
Agriculture and related food production industries comprise one of the lowest-paid sectors of the US economy; 29% of full-time workers earn an annual individual income of <$12,760 or $26,200 for a family of 4. Agriculture in particular draws on a predominantly Latino immigrant workforce, who work longer hours, receive lower wages, and experience higher levels of household poverty than their US-born counterparts. Among immigrant farmworkers, ≈54% are undocumented and thus have reduced access to federal benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Working conditions, poverty, and immigration status have compounded legal and economic challenges faced by farmworkers during the COVID-19 pandemic.[9,10]
We initiated surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 infection among farmworkers in Salinas Valley, California, to monitor the COVID-19 epidemic. We previously described impacts of the pandemic on economic well-being, mental health, and food insecurity within this population (A.M. Mora, unpub. data, https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.18.20248518). Here, we report on the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection among farmworkers tested during June–November 2020 and on symptoms and antibody responses within a subset of farmworkers enrolled in a cross-sectional study.
Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2021;27(5):1330-1342. © 2021 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)